Wednesday, January 25, 2023

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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

Cutting Cost Centers

Begin With Budget Cuts to Military
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, January 25, 2023, p. A6

Republican Grover Norquist thought government should shrink enough he could drown it in a bathtub.

The current House seems to share that goal. Where should they begin?

Peter Drucker was called the founder of modern management. American and Japanese businesses owe him big time for his proposed reforms. One was the concept of cost centers, tackle the big stuff.

So what’s the largest cost center? That’s easy. Military appropriations.

We want to protect our people and borders. There are good reasons for having a military. The question is: how much?

The administration’s request for $733 billion is more than the defense spending of the next nine nations combined! Might that be figurative and literal overkill? [Photo credit: U.S. Strategic Command; the ultimate cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, R&D and construction, was $17.5 billion. See "SOURCES," below.]

We have 750 bases in 80 countries. Programs and operations are so vast few if any know how much money went where or what happened to it. Accountants say it’s simply impossible to audit the military.

As the House’s own website reports, “the founders felt that war should be difficult to enter.” They believed giving the House sole constitutional power “to declare war” would increase that difficulty. Members would be paying the price financially and with their children.

Today? Not so much. There’s no draft. Congress can be generous — $64 billion for Lockheed, $42 billion for Raytheon. In return, defense contractors are generous campaign donors. This year Congress boosted its generosity with $58 billion more than the $773 billion requested.

Defense spending is designed to keep things from happening outside our borders. Civilians don’t use or even touch the weapons.

Domestic spending makes things happen inside our borders. The Declaration of Independence says the purpose of government is to secure our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. These rights not only increase our quality of life with things we can touch and use — education, food, health care, housing, and highways -- they improve our economy.

What’s worse, there’s evidence our defense spending is not doing us that much good.

As Abraham Maslow wrote, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.” How’s that hammer been working for us in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere?

China isn’t perfect. Maybe we aren’t either. But China is helping build other countries’ infrastructure, economic growth — and China’s access to their resources. The U.S. showcasing “my military is bigger than yours” may create more wartime allies — and wars — but few true friends.

Some of America’s “best and brightest” are at the top of the military. They know the human costs of war. They approach it with the analytical rigor of the Powell Doctrine. (Questions like: “What non-military strategies might be better? What’s our exit strategy? Why will conditions become, and stay, better after we leave?”)

We pride ourselves on “civilian control of the military.” There are times when we might have been better off with military control of the civilians.

Defense appropriations. The best place to start cutting cost centers.

Nicholas Johnson, when U.S. Maritime Administrator, had some responsibility for military sealift during the Vietnam War.

Grover Norquist. “Grover Norquist,” Wikipedia, (“Norquist favors dramatically reducing the size of government.[12] He has been noted for his widely quoted quip from a 2001 interview with NPR's Morning Edition: "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."[55][56]”)

Cost Centers/Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker, Wikipedia, ("the founder of modern management." [2] [ Denning, Steve (August 29, 2014). "The Best Of Peter Drucker". Forbes.] . . . "The fact is," Drucker wrote in his 1973 Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, "that in modern society there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will."[25])

Troy Segal, “Profit Center: Characteristics vs. a Cost Center, With Examples,” Investopedia, Dec. 07, 2020, ("Peter Drucker coined the term "profit center" in 1945.")

Sayantan Mukhopadhyay, "Cost Center vs Profit Center," WallStreetMojo, ("Cost Center is that department within the organization responsible for identifying and maintaining the organization’s cost as low as possible by analyzing the processes and making necessary changes in the company. . . . Management guru, Peter Drucker first coined the term “profit center” in 1945. After a few years, Peter Drucker corrected himself by saying that there are no profit centers in business, and that was his biggest mistake. He then said that there are only cost centers in a business and no profit center. If any profit center existed for a business, that would be a customer’s check that hadn’t been bounced.")

The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. Photo from Alexander Timewell, "Making History on USS Gerald R. Ford as Deployment Nears," U.S. Strategic Command, Oct. 4, 2022, and see
Cost: Fox Van Allen, "Meet the US Navy's new $13 billion aircraft carrier; The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the most technologically advanced warship ever built," CNET, Dec. 10, 2019, ("The Ford itself will cost US taxpayers $12.8 billion in materials and labor. This doesn't take into account the $4.7 billion spent in research and development of the new carrier class." Total $17.5 billion)

Defense Appropriations. “U.S. Defense Spending Compared to Other Countries,” May 11, 2022, (chart: “The United States spends more on defense than the next 9 countries combined” [$801 B vs. $777 B])

Bill Chappell, “The Pentagon Has Never Passed An Audit. Some Senators Want To Change That,” NPR, May 19, 2021, (“The Pentagon and the military industrial complex have been plagued by a massive amount of waste, fraud and financial mismanagement for decades. That is absolutely unacceptable," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, along with Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Despite having trillions of dollars in assets and receiving hundreds of billions in federal dollars annually, the department has never detailed its assets and liabilities in a given year. For the past three financial years, the Defense Department's audit has resulted in a "Disclaimer of Opinion," meaning the auditor didn't get enough accounting records to form an assessment. . . . But critics note that all federal agencies, including the Pentagon, have been under the same requirement to undergo an independent financial audit since the early 1990s. Every other federal department has satisfied audit requirements since fiscal 2013, when the Department of Homeland Security had its first clean audit.”)

“FY23 Defense Budget Breakdown; Army, Air Force, and Navy-Marine Corps budget and contracting priorities,” Bloomberg Government,,appropriation%20for%20this%20fiscal%20year (“President Joe Biden’s proposed $773 billion budget for the Defense Department . . .. ‘Yearly U.S. Defense spending on contractors; Total defense spending on contractors in the past five years,’ 2021 – $408.8 Billion, 2020 – $448.9 Billion”)

John M. Donnelly, “Pentagon: Hill added $58 billion to current defense budget; Additions included money for disasters, war in Ukraine, ships and more,” Roll Call, July 14, 2022, (“Defense Department appropriations legislation for the current fiscal year funded more than $58 billion worth of military projects that the administration did not request, according to a first-of-its-kind Pentagon report.”)

“Defense Primer: Department of Defense Contractors,” Congressional Reference Service, Dec. 19, 2018,,Afghanistan%2C%20Syria%2C%20and%20Iraq. “List of Defense Contractors,” Wikipedia,

“Military-Industrial Complex,” Wikipedia,

“GOVERNMENT CONTRACTOR DEMOGRAPHICS AND STATISTICS IN THE US,” Zippia, (“How Many Government Contractor Are There In The Us? There are over 5,138 Government Contractors in the United States.”)

Military bases. Doug Bandow, “750 Bases in 80 Countries Is Too Many for Any Nation: Time for the US to Bring Its Troops Home, CATO Institute, Oct. 4, 2021, (“some 750 American military facilities remain open in 80 nations and territories around the world. No other country in human history has had such a dominant presence. . . . Washington has nearly three times as many bases as embassies and consulates. America also has three times as many installations as all other countries combined. . . . “These bases are costly in a number of ways: financially, politically, socially, and environmentally. US bases in foreign lands often raise geopolitical tensions, support undemocratic regimes, and serve as a recruiting tool for militant groups opposed to the US presence and the governments its presence bolsters. In other cases, foreign bases are being used and have made it easier for the United States to launch and execute disastrous wars, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.”)

Top Defense Contractors. “Top 100 Defense Companies for 2022,” Defense News, (Top 5 with Defense Revenue in billions: Lockheed Martin ($64.4), Raytheon Technologies ($42), Boeing ($35), Northrop Grumman ($31.4), General Dynamics ($31))

Founders’ intentions. U.S. House of Representatives, History, Art & Archives, “Power to Declare War,” (“Like many powers articulated in the U.S. Constitution, Congress’ authority to declare war was revolutionary in its design, and a clear break from the past when a handful of European monarchs controlled the continent’s affairs. . . . Like George Mason of Virginia, the founders felt that war should be difficult to enter, and they expected congressional debate to restrain the war-making process. . . . For the Members, to declare war against a foreign power is to send their constituents, their neighbors, their family, and even themselves into harm’s way.”)

Constitutional provisions. “The Congress shall have Power To . . . provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” —U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, clause 1

“The Congress shall have Power . . . To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; “To provide and maintain a Navy; “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress” —U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, clauses 11–16

Declaration of Independence. National Archives, Milestone Documents, “Declaration of Independence (1776),” (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”)

Our hammer. “Law of the Instrument,” (“The law of the instrument, law of the hammer,[1] Maslow's hammer (or gavel), or golden hammer[a] is a cognitive bias that involves an over-reliance on a familiar tool. Abraham Maslow wrote in 1966, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail."[2])

The Powell Doctrine. Nicholas Johnson, “The Powell Doctrine” in “Afghanistan: Our Unaffordable War to Nowhere,”, Aug. 29, 2017,

“Powell Doctrine,” Wikipedia, (“The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States: Is a vital national security interest threatened? Do we have a clear attainable objective? Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed? Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted? Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement? Have the consequences of our action been fully considered? Is the action supported by the American people? Do we have genuine broad international support?[2]”)

Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial Complex. National Archives, Milestone Documents, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address (1961), Transcript, Jan. 17, 1961, (“America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment. . . . there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. . . . This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. . . . In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. . . . only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. . . . this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. . . . [The conference] table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield. . . . Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. . . . To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing inspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”)

Speech writer Malcolm Moos. “Malcolm Moos,” Wikipedia, (“Moos joined President Eisenhower's staff as a special assistant in 1957 and became his chief speech writer in 1958. Among the many speeches Moos wrote for President Eisenhower, he wrote Eisenhower's valedictory speech which warned of the influence of the military-industrial complex in 1961.[3]”)

# # #

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Cut the Tax Talk

Cut Out the Tax Cut Talk
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, January 10, 2023, p. A6

To borrow from The Who’s concluding lines to a song, “Meet the New Year, Same as the old year.”

It’s not that our joys-and-sorrows balance doesn’t leave a lot to be thankful for, compared with most of the world’s people. But we still have more serious challenges than we can surmount — most beyond their “Best if solved by” dates.

So why am I limiting myself to just one? It’s like “why did French men kiss women’s hands?” “Because you have to start somewhere.”

I’m starting with taxes.

Politicians, including some Iowa officeholders, use “tax cuts” as a sure election winner — and coverup for opposing a program.

But letting re-election and taxes trump public needs is like cutting into the front of the line at the checkout counter.

As they say in Rochester, “Hold the Mayo, let’s take another look at this.”

The initial relevant issues are (1) What kind of lives do we want for ourselves and our fellow Homo sapiens — in our families, communities, states, nation, and world? (2) Given those goals, what programs will be most helpful and efficient in reaching them? And (3) for each of those programs, what is the most effective and economical way of providing them? [Photo source: wikimedia/commons.]

Only after reaching consensus on the answers to those questions need we address the administrative details — including funding sources.

Look around. There are many. The philanthropy of individuals and institutions totals $500 billion annually. There are 2 million nonprofits. A quarter of Americans volunteer an average of 50 hours a year — a $184 billion value “for free.” Twothirds of us help our neighbors. Most churches have helping programs. Public-spirited corporations contribute money, participate in community programs, provide training and health care for employees.

And yes, there will be occasions when a tax-funded government program, or assistance, is the most economical and effective source.

But we need to begin with “what do we want?” and “what’s the best way to get it?”

By now you’re thinking of a version of that question for the Lone Ranger, “Who’s this ‘we’ you’ve been talking about, Nick?” Ah, you got me. Yes, I was including you — as well as, sadly, the much larger population of millions who never read this column.

How do we go from a column to a coordinated national movement? For it is the coordination that is most difficult. There are already numerous organizations, institutes, foundations, think tanks, academic centers, governmental units, and journalists working on slices. Health care, housing, nutrition, mental health, climate change, transportation, education, international relations and trade, and more.

What we need is a single source, with a website, that provides links to the best proposals in each category. An organization that will promote universities’ and other institutions’ multiple ongoing discussions like The Gazette’s annual “Iowa Ideas.”

Finally, we’ll need more emphasis on experiential high school civics beyond reading, discussion and exams. Also organizations that give their members the experience of achieving desirable change opposed by the powerful.

How’s that for a New Year’s aspiration?
Nicholas Johnson is a dreamer, but he’s not the only one.

The Who. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” (“Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”)

World & Iowa wealth. “Distribution of Wealth,” Wikipedia, (“Global inequality statistics A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth.[10] A 2006 study found that the richest 2% own more than half of global household assets.[11]

According to the OECD in 2012 the top 0.6% of world population (consisting of adults with more than US$1 million in assets) or the 42 million richest people in the world held 39.3% of world wealth. The next 4.4% (311 million people) held 32.3% of world wealth. The bottom 95% held 28.4% of world wealth. The large gaps of the report get by the Gini index to 0.893, and are larger than gaps in global income inequality, measured in 2009 at 0.38.[12] For example, in 2012 the bottom 60% of the world population held same wealth in 2012 as the people on Forbes' Richest list consisting of 1,226 richest billionaires of the world.

A 2021 Oxfam report found that collectively, the 10 richest men in the world owned more than the combined wealth of the bottom 3.1 billion people, almost half of the entire world population. Their combined wealth doubled during the pandemic.[13][14][15]”)

Credit Suisse, “Global Wealth Report 2022,” Sept. 20, 2022,,of%20UHNWIs%20will%20reach%20385%2C000.

Hand kissing. “Hand-Kissing,” Wikipedia,

Tax Cuts. Erin Murphy, “Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs into law $1.9 billion in tax cuts; Democrats say a flat tax mostly benefits high wage earners,” The Gazette, March 1, 2022, (“It is the third significant tax cuts legislation signed in the five years that Reynolds has been governor.”)

Hold the Mayo. Sean Baker, “Rochester as seen through seven decades of popular culture,” MedCityBeat, Aug. 27, 2019, (“AIRPLANE! “Alright, give me Hamm on 5, hold the Mayo.” In 1980, the film Airplane! pulled Mayo Clinic into the world of slapstick comedy. In this scene, Captain Clarence receives a call from a physician regarding a patient on the plane headed to Mayo Clinic for an organ transplant. The live heart for the transplant can be seen bouncing on the doctor’s desk.” With associated YouTube clip from movie)

Funding Sources. “Giving USA: Total U.S. Charitable Giving Remained Strong in 2021, reaching $484.85 Billion,” Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI [Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis], June 21, 2022,,-reaching-$484.85-billion.html?id=392#:~:text=Giving%20USA%202022%3A%20The%20Annual,%24466.23%20billion%20contributed%20in%202020 (“Giving USA 2022: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2021, released today, reports that individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $484.85 billion to U.S. charities in 2021. Total charitable giving in 2021 grew 4.0% over the revised total of $466.23 billion contributed in 2020.”)

“Value of Volunteer Time,” Independent Sector, April 18, 2022,

International Labour Organization, “Volunteer Work Measurement Guide,” May 2021,

Volunteer Hub, “Best Practices: 40 Volunteer Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind,” (“2. One out of four Americans volunteer, two out of three Americans help their neighbor according to a study performed by The Corporation for National & Community Service. 7. Volunteerism has a value of over $184 billion dollars; 16. Volunteers, on average, spend 50 hours per year donating their time to the greater good. 17. Over 71% of volunteers work with only one organization each year. 22. There are more than 1.8 million active nonprofits in the United States alone.”)

Civics. See “SOURCES” for Nicholas Johnson, “Civics Can Save Us,” The Gazette, Sept. 7, 2022, p. A5,

# # #

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

COVID's Risks

Assessing Potential Risks of COVID-19
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, December 28, 2022, p. A6

Too often, following a series like Erin Jordan’s reports on the Marengo explosion and fire, a school shooting, or events on Jan. 6, a corporate executive or public official may say, “This must never happen again.”

My response, “Well, of course.” But “never happen again” is never enough for me. What I want to know is why the folks who get the big bucks to prevent such disasters didn’t prevent this one.

Could all disasters be prevented? Of course not. But there are procedures used in business, government and the military that could reduce the number substantially.

The procedures deal with “risk”; risk perception, risk analysis, risk assessment, risk management and risk communication — procedures useful in our daily lives as well.

Based on others’ experiences, and using our imagination, what’s the risk of driving without fastening the seat belt? Serious injury or death in an accident. What’s the likelihood of it happening? How serious would it be if it did? What does it cost in time, money and inconvenience to fasten the seat belt?

As either the likelihood or seriousness of the risks increase, we’re less likely to gamble on their happening. As either or both are minimal, we’re less concerned.

Which brings us to COVID. What are the risks? If we become infected we can infect others, even if we have no symptoms. Some of the unpleasant symptoms can include fever, sore throat, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell, requiring cancellation of work and plans. “Long COVID” (possible monthslong serious symptoms), hospital stays and death are additional risks. [Photo source:]

At one extreme are those who never leave their house. At the other are those who haven’t been vaccinated, never wear masks, and sit with friends in crowded bars.

In between are most of us, wondering whether an N95 mask is worth the added protection. Balancing the pleasure of being with family and friends who say they’re fully vaccinated against the risk one may be infected but not symptomatic. We want to follow President Barack Obama’s admonition: “Don’t do stupid stuff.” But not to extremes.

Tennessee Williams, a University of Iowa student in 1937-38, and noted for his 1947 play, “A Streetcar Named Desire” (among others), closed the play with the character, Blanche DuBois’ last line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Blanche had her challenges, but her revelation expresses the lack of foresight that many of us, including myself, have on at least one occasion brought to risky behavior.

Iowa City Historian Irving Weber’s son, Willis, and I were neighbors and partners in numerous risky explorations and experiments. One involved running a telegraph line from the roof of my house, across Melrose Court, to the roof of his. There is no way I would be climbing on either roof today. But back then it wasn’t that we thought ourselves invincible, it’s that we didn’t think about risk at all.

Today, at 88, I’m holding stairway railings and I gave up my love of bicycling. I’ve found the tools of risk assessment useful. Maybe you would, too.
Nicholas Johnson, now fully vaccinated, was former co-director of the Iowa Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental policy.

Erin Jordan/Marengo. E.g., Erin Jordan, “Marengo officials worry about long-term cleanup costs after explosion,” The Gazette, Dec. 22, 2022, p. A1,

Never happen again. E.g., John Costa, “ATU Shocked and Saddened by Fatal Texas School Shooting,” Amalgamated Transit Union, May 25, 2022, (“We must find the courage to come together as a nation to take serious action to ensure that these unspeakable acts of violence never happen again.”)

Risk. Lisa D. Ellis, “Using a Risk Analysis Framework to Guide COVID-19 Decisions,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Jan 7, 2021, (“Risk analysis is a scientific tool that can help us assess threats to human health, provide input into how to manage these risks, and enable us to communicate more effectively with the general public about how best to respond to the threats,” says James K. Hammitt … “For communicable diseases like COVID-19, which are spread from one person to the next, a person’s risk is affected by other people’s behaviors.” … Risk analysis … includes the following three key steps: risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication.” … “We can estimate how much an action might reduce transmission, then find out how costly or burdensome it would be. Keep in mind that some interventions are costly, but they don’t reduce the risk much. So, you need to weigh each intervention to see if it makes sense,” he says. … some experts felt it would be better to let people develop herd immunity. Whether the latter is a good idea depends on how willing people are to get sick, and how many will die, and how costly it is to try other things,” … System 1 is fast and is based on feelings. This is usually our default system. System 2 is analytical and takes more effort and more time, so we can’t activate this system too often,” he notes. … system 2 and think more carefully about how much risk their actions could have. As a result, they might decide not to gather because the chance of harming loved ones outweighs the benefit of getting together. … activate system 2 and think more carefully about how much risk their actions could have. As a result, they might decide not to gather because the chance of harming loved ones outweighs the benefit of getting together.)

Google search: “what college courses deal with risk assessment” (“Relevant majors/degrees: Risk management. Management or business studies. Finance or economics. Science Statistics. Engineering. Law.

MBA risk management includes: Liability Insurance. Agricultural Insurance. Marine Insurance. Life Insurance. Fire Insurance. Investment Planning and Management. Risk Management. Marketing of Financial Services.

Risk Management … Framework … Information Systems … Plan … Agency …Tools”)

Risk in everyday life. Your Dictionary Staff, “Examples of Risk You Encounter Daily,” YourDictionary, (“A teenager knows that she will be grounded if she chooses to invite friends over after school instead of doing her homework, but also knows that the likelihood of her parents finding out she did so is slight. If the teenager chooses to invite her friends over she is taking a risk of getting in trouble with her parents.
• A 55-year old man wants to quickly increase his retirement fund. In order to do so at a rapid pace, he must change his investments to those that could either yield higher results or completely fail, in which case he would lose his retirement. If the man chooses to move his investments to those in which he could possibly lose his money, he is a taking a risk.
• A gambler decides to take all of his winnings from the night and attempt a bet of "double or nothing." The gambler's choice is a risk in that he could lose all that he won in one bet.
• An employee knows that the time for him to leave work is contractually at 5 p.m. and leaving early puts his job in jeopardy. However, the man is motivated to get home early to let out his sick dog. By leaving early, the man is risking getting caught and facing the consequences of breaking the rules.
• A driver is approaching a yellow light and must choose to brake in order to stop in time for the light to turn red or to accelerate to make it through the light before it turns red. If the driver accelerates, he is risking going through the light which could result in an accident or a ticket.
• A student in college knows that there is a curfew by which students are expected to be back on campus in the evening. However, the student wants to stay out later with the group she is with. If she chooses to stay out past the curfew time, she is risking experiencing the consequences for choosing not to follow the rules.
• A man lost his job and is unable to pay his rent. As a result, he makes the choice to steal money from the local convenience store. In doing so, he risks being caught and arrested.
• A woman gets into her car in the morning and notices that the gas level is low. She chooses to drive to work, regardless, without stopping at a gas station. By making this choice she is risking that she will run out of gas in her car on the way to work.
• A woman watches a man kidnap a child. In order to keep him from getting away from the scene of the crime, the woman jumps in front of the car. By doing this, she risked her life in order to save the child.”)

Mike Patton, “Everyone Needs Risk Management,” Forbes, Nov. 30, 2014, - excellent (essential?) article, requires Forbes subscription

Daniel Speiss, “The Importance of Risk Management in Daily Life,” Linkedin, Nov. 15, 2021, (“• Every decision we make is laced or spiked with an underlying layer called risk, and navigating life without knowing that risk is an active participant in what makes your present moment and future are, well, risky.
• What do I mean by risk? Every decision that we decide to enact, whether that decision is social, experiential, financial, has to do with risk management.
• Managing risk isn't something we're taught in school, even at a college or university level. Most people go through life unaware of risk being one of the many materials that go into the structure of making choices.
• Everyone is going to have a personal attitude towards risk and risk management. Some people ignore risk by not doing anything risky (which still implies risk), some play the middle of doing a little of both, and some people are all-around risk-takers. Everyone is at some point on the spectrum of how they view and utilize risk and risk management.
• The purpose of this read is to elicit a remembrance of risk, that risk is something we do and use every day, in the most unexpected ways. Risk is a unique tool to help guide us in life when making any and all decisions.
• Examples of risk could be how you manage your health (or not), how you strategize your performance at work and meet your goals, who you allow into your life, and the effects that have on your social life and network. You could even say that there is risk in what coffee mug you want to use in the morning, when one mug elicits a micro mood as opposed to the other and how that will affect your day.
• When considering important decisions, consider the risks, your goals, and the expected outcome you want. When making the small choices in your day, how are you guiding yourself to manage the theme tied to these choices?
• If you are easily stressed, do you manage the risk of being exposed to stressors in your day-to-day life? If you need to watch your diet, are you managing the risk of your exposure to friends, family, and places that encourage behavior that would go against your current efforts?
• Poor risk management skills come at a cost, and that cost is what you want out of life. Managing risk can be the difference between seeing your dreams as intangible and seeing them as a reality
• Thinking differently about how you approach to risk can change your life within days, given the attention.
• If you are to leave this blog post with anything, I would only encourage you to think about risk, how risk is involved in your life both big and small, and challenge yourself to think about the magnitude in which you manage risk in your life.
• What are your goals? Write them down, and then think about setbacks you've had towards those goals. You will find within every goal, every desire, the risk is there, mostly unmanaged and unmitigated.
• What will you do differently knowing the risk is a key player in life and what happens to you?”)

“How to Manage Risk in Your Daily Life,” Fashion Gone Rogue, (“while driving may be a risk, wearing a seatbelt reduces the risks.

Many people right now are at a big of a crossroads in how they think about risk, however, with the covid-19 pandemic. …

In essentially every way, there are usually four general steps of risk management. The first is assessing the risk. Then, there is categorizing the risk. This means you determine if the risk is small or minor to you, or more serious and severe.

You have to think about the probability of risks occurring too.

Then, once you’ve handled these steps, you can start considering your options. Education can be used in all of these steps.”)

Adnan Manzoor, “7 Ways to Apply Risk Management to Your Personal Life,” Lifehack,

COVID Risk. “Symptoms,” COVID-19, CDC, Oct. 26, 2022,

Google search: COVID risk assessment and masks

Lisa D. Ellis, “Risk Analysis in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Weighing the Cost and Benefits of Vaccines and Masks,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Nov 7, 2021, (“Every single day, people take risks. They drive in cars and fly in airplanes, expose themselves to environmental pollution and so much more. While some of these public health risks are so integrated into our lives that we’ve stopped worrying about them, other risks—such as engaging in activities that increase your likelihood of contracting COVID-19—can be much harder to ignore right now. … look to a risk analysis framework to measure the level of threat and to determine how best to respond and communicate the risk to others. Specifically, you can use this framework to compare the cost of actions like masking with the extent of how that might reduce transmission and save lives. When you weigh these two factors against each other, you can determine if the cost of the action is worth the benefit—in this case, reducing the number of people getting sick and dying. … “People who are vaccinated are less likely to contract COVID-19, and if they do become infected, they are less likely to become very ill or die. With masks on the other hand, it seems clear that they do a lot to help the wearer not infect other people,” he adds. … “)

“Analyzing Risk: Principles, Concepts and Applications,” Harvard School of Public Health, Continuing Education, Feb 11-14, 2019,

Devabhaktuni Srikrishna, “How to Judge COVID Risks and When to Wear a Mask; Scientific American asks experts in medicine, risk assessment and other fields how to balance the risks of COVID with the benefits of visiting public indoor spaces,” Scientific American, Apr 19, 2022,

Risk Assessment,, (“This involves identification of risk (what can happen and why), the potential consequences, the probability of occurrence, the tolerability or acceptability of the risk, and ways to mitigate or reduce the probability of the risk.[2] … At the individual level, a simple process of identifying objectives and risks, weighing their importance, and creating plans, may be all that's necessary. … Exposure to a pathogen may or may not result in actual infection, and the consequences of infection may also be variable. Similarly, a fall from the same place may result in minor injury or death, depending on unpredictable details. In these cases, estimates must be made of reasonably likely consequences and associated probability of occurrence. … General health There are many resources that provide health risk information.

The National Library of Medicine provides risk assessment and regulation information tools for a varied audience.[24] These include:

TOXNET (databases on hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases),[25] … The US Environmental Protection Agency provides extensive information about ecological and environmental risk assessments for the public via its risk assessment portal.[29] … In project management, risk assessment is an integral part of the risk management plan, studying the probability, the impact, and the effect of every known risk on the project, as well as the corrective action to take should an incident be implied by a risk occur.[37] … the probability and magnitude of unfavorable outcomes such as injury, illness, or property damage due to environmental and related causes, compared to the human development or other benefits of outdoor activity.”)

A Heeney 1, F Hand 2, J Bates 2, O Mc Cormack 2, K Mealy 2, “Surgical mortality - an analysis of all deaths within a general surgical department,” Surgeon, Surgeon . 2014 Jun;12(3):121-8. doi: 10.1016/j.surge.2013.07.005. Epub 2013 Sep 8,, (“Mortality rate following elective surgery was 0.17% and following emergency surgery was 10-fold higher (1.7%). The main cause of post-operative death was sepsis (30.02%). Emergency operations, increasing age and major procedures significantly increased mortality risk (p < 0.001).”)

Long COVID. Michael Marshall, “The Lasting Misery of Coronavirus Long-Haulers; Months after infection with SARS-CoV-2, some people are still battling crushing fatigue, lung damage and other symptoms of ‘long COVID,’” nature, Sept. 14, 2020,

“Long-Term Effects of Coronavirus (Long COVID),” National Health Service England, Oct. 24, 2022,

Tae Chung, et al, “Long COVID: Long-Term Effects of COVID-19,” Health, Johns Hopkins, June 14, 2022,

Mayo Clinic Staff, “COVID-19: Long-Term Effects,” Mayo Clinic, June 28, 2022,

“Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions,” COVID-19, CDC, Dec. 16, 2022,

“Long COVID: Some COVID-19 Symptoms Last for Months,” UC Davis, Feb. 10, 2022,

Tennessee Williams. “Tennessee Williams,” LitCity, University of Iowa, (“Tom Williams, an aspiring playwright and transfer student a year short of a degree . . . enrolled at the University of Iowa, earning his B.A. in 1938, and soon thereafter picked up the moniker ‘Tennessee.’”)

Willis Weber. See my “In Memoriam: Willis Weber,” FromDC2Iowa, Nov. 5, 2006,

Kindness of strangers. “Streetcar Named Desire,” text,

# # #

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Profit Deal

Gambling is a "Profit Deal"
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, December 13, 2022, p. A6

Steve Martin plays the intellectually challenged character Navin Johnson in the 1979 movie, “The Jerk.” Navin’s lack of weight-guessing ability at the fair is losing money for the owner. Informed of this, Navin responds, “I get it, this is a profit deal!”

The same insight came to me 32 years earlier. Dad had been invited to teach a University of Southern California summer session. After exams, we travelled up California’s scenic Highway 1 to San Francisco. Dad wanted to visit the parents of one of his graduate students. They lived in what then seemed to me a huge, multi-storied house.

The owner, not wishing to include me in grown-ups’ talk, handed me a straw hat filled with slugs the size of five-cent nickels and showed me a staircase to the attic. That’s where I was to play with slot machines until called.

Since I was carrying a small spiral notepad and pencil, I saw this as an opportunity for research. I made a mark for each slug inserted in the machine and for each one it coughed up that clanked in the tray.

Always careful with my newspaper delivery money, that was the day I decided to opt for saving, rather than gambling. It’s not that I never go into casinos. I do. I once interviewed a fellow in Vegas who seemed to know the payout percentages of every slot machine in town. Casinos are a significant sub-set of America. I just don’t leave any money there.

Gambling has a long history among Homo Sapiens. The first “dice,” made of animals’ teeth, date from 3000 B.C. But they were primarily used for divining the future rather than betting on it. Venice had the first casino in 1638. And though church basement bingo has lost popularity, friends’ weekly poker games and other betting continues.

Today’s increases in problem gambling and addiction are consequences of its commercialization. Gambling’s become a super-profitable industry. From 2021 to 2022 global gambling went from $287 to $456 billion, with projections of $840 billion by 2026.

Meanwhile, risks of gambling addiction grew 30 percent from 2018 to 2021. Five percent of those from 11 to 17 are showing signs of problem gambling. Gambling addiction is increasingly recognized as a brain disease, like addictions to alcohol, nicotine or other drugs.

Addicts are money makers. Drug dealers give free first doses. Sports gambling gives free first bets. Gambling soon becomes for many like a pandemic with no vaccine – impacting others like the second-hand smoke from cigarettes.

The industry uses technology, marketing and advertising manipulation to spread its tentacles throughout our society and grow its customer base. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson. "[T]he last time I checked (so it may have changed), the Kinnick scoreboard was still running an advertisement for the Riverside gambling casino, and the casino still had a Kinnick skybox for its high rollers." "Does Herky Have a Gambling Problem?", January 25, 2012, NOTE DATE.]

States like Iowa, once criminalizing gambling, now profit from lotteries and their take of casinos’ profits. Anyone with a smartphone is a potential customer for the gambling industry – from anywhere and at any time.

Want to know more? Take the advice of Woodward and Bernstein’s source, “Deep Throat”: “follow the money.” In the long game the house always wins. Commercialized gambling is, indeed, “A profit deal.”

Nicholas Johnson is waiting for sports next gambling-related scandal. Contact

“The Jerk.”

“The Jerk,” 1979,

Brain disease.

Ferris Jabr, “How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling; Addictive drugs and gambling rewire neural circuits in similar ways,” Scientific American, Nov. 1, 2013, (“In the 1980s, while updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder …. In what has come to be regarded as a landmark decision, the association moved pathological gambling to the addictions chapter [May 2013]. The decision, which followed 15 years of deliberation, reflects a new understanding of the biology underlying addiction and has already changed the way psychiatrists help people who cannot stop gambling.”)

“Is Addiction Really a Disease?”, Indiana University Health, Nov. 14, 2022,

“Gambling Addiction and the Brain,” Brain, Sept. 3, 2015,

Gambling history.

“Gambling, Wikipedia, (“In Mesopotamia the earliest six-sided dice date to about 3000 BCE. However, they were based on astragali dating back thousands of years earlier. In China, gambling houses were widespread in the first millennium BCE, and betting on fighting animals was common. Lotto games and dominoes (precursors of Pai Gow) appeared in China as early as the 10th century.[7] Playing cards appeared in the 9th century CE in China. Records trace gambling in Japan back at least as far as the 14th century.[8] Poker, the most popular U.S. card game associated with gambling, derives from the Persian game As-Nas, dating back to the 17th century.[9] The first known casino, the Ridotto, started operating in 1638 in Venice, Italy.[10]” …”)

The Gambler’s Lament,, (“The Gambler's lament” or "Gamester's lament") is one of the hymns of the Rigveda … in the late Tenth Book (RV 10.34), . . . the early Indian Iron Age.” “The poem consists of a monologue of a repentant gambler who laments the ruin brought on him because of addiction to dice.[4]”

Rigveda,, “The Rigveda is the oldest known Vedic Sanskrit text.[7] Its early layers are among the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language.[8][note 2] . . . Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the bulk of the Rigveda Samhita was composed in . . . the Indian subcontinent . . . between c. 1500 and 1000 BCE,[13][14][15] . . . c. 1900–1200 BCE has also been given.[16][17][note 1]”

Kathryn Selig Brown, “Life of the Buddha,” The Met, (“ According to tradition, the historical Buddha lived from 563 to 483 B.C., although scholars postulate that he may have lived as much as a century later.”)

Sigālovāda Sutta, (“Sigalovada Sutta is the 31st Sutta described in the Digha Nikaya ("Long Discourses of Buddha").[1]” “The Buddha first describes fourteen evil ways that should be avoided by a householder. The Buddha enumerates these evil ways to be avoided as: . . . the six ways of squandering wealth: 1. indulging in intoxicants 2. wandering the streets at inappropriate times 3. frequenting public spectacle 4. compulsive gambling 5. malevolent companionship 6. habitual idleness
Private gambling.

Hamil R. Harris, “Church Bingo's Number Is Up,” Washington Post, January 24, 2004,

Gambling in Iowa.

“The State of Gambling in Iowa and How It Is Influencing the Economy,” The Daily Iowan, June 14, 2021,

“Gambling Legislation in Iowa,” The Daily Iowan, Aug. 28, 2020, (“[Iowa] has a grand total of 19 different casinos, second only to Nevada in the number of casinos per capita.” “The most recent change . . . has been the arrival of sports betting [following the] May 2018 [decision] … by the US Supreme Court that all states who wanted to make the activity legal should be permitted.” “[It] is only legal to play [poker] for money within licensed casinos. This means that games played anywhere from bars to people’s homes which involve gambling could make the organisers liable to prosecution.”)

Todd Dorman, “Iowa’s gambling flood gates opened 50 years ago,” The Gazette, Sep. 24, 2021,

Increase gambling addiction.

Stephen Marche, “America’s Gambling Addiction is Metastasizing,” The Atlantic, Nov. 26, 2021, (“Gambling also leads, indirectly, to increases in violent crime, suicide, divorce, and bankruptcy.”)

Rob Davies, “Problem gamblers at 15 times higher risk of suicide, study finds,” The Guardian, March 12, 2019, (“The study found that suicide rates increased 19-fold among men between the ages of 20 and 49 if they had a gambling problem and by 15 times among men and women of all ages.”)

Martha C. Shaw, et al., “The Effect of Pathological Gambling on Families, Marriages, and Children,” Research Gate, Sept. 2007, (“Pathological gambling (PG) is widely reported to have negative consequences on marriages, families, and children. Empirical evidence is only now accumulating but when put together with anecdotal information, the extent of these problems is clear. PG contributes to chaos and dysfunction within the family unit, disrupts marriages, leading to high rates of separation and divorce, and is associated with child abuse and neglect.”)

Chelsea Connor, “Do Casinos Increase Crime?” Story Maps, Dec. 13, 2020, (“Approximately one half of compulsive gamblers commit crime. Typically, their motivation is financial and non-violent to either collect more money to gamble or repay debts.” “[T]he Horseshow Casino in Baltimore … was constructed August 26, 2014. I will use crime data in 2014 showing pre-conditions and 5 years after construction, 2019, to show post conditions. … Total crime count for 2014 was 42,620. Total crime count for 2019 was 1,638,600.”)

“Problem gambling,”, (“Impact (Australia) According to the Productivity Commission’s 2010 final report into gambling, the social cost of problem gambling is close to 4.7 billion dollars a year. Some of the harms resulting from problem gambling include depression, suicide, lower work productivity, job loss, relationship breakdown, crime and bankruptcy.[55] A survey conducted in 2008 found that the most common motivation for fraud was problem gambling, with each incident averaging a loss of $1.1 million.[55]” . . . “Nevada has the highest percentage of pathological gambling; a 2002 report estimated 2.2 to 3.6 percent of Nevada residents over the age of 18 could be called problem gamblers.” . . . “According to a 1997 meta-analysis by Harvard Medical School’s division on addictions, 1.1 percent of the adult population of the United States and Canada could be called pathological gamblers.[63] A 1996 study estimated 1.2 to 1.9 percent of adults in Canada were pathological.[64]” . . . “approximately 6 million American adults are addicted to gambling.[67]” Signs of a gambling problem include:[67][medical citation needed] • Using income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling • Chasing losses • Losing sleep over thoughts of gambling • Arguing with friends or family about gambling behavior • Feeling depressed or suicidal because of gambling losses”)

Gambling a profitable industry.

“Gambling Global Market Report 2022,” The Business Research Company, (“The global gambling market grew from $287.43 billion in 2021 to $456.61 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58.9%. . . . The gambling market is expected to grow to $840.29 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 16.5%.”)

Adam Scovette, “Casinos and Regional Economies: Has the Game Changed?” Economic Brief, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, July 2022, No. 22-28, Casinos and Regional Economies: Has the Game Changed?

Increased number of gamblers.

Nicholas Johnson, “Move to online gambling a bad deal for Iowans,” Letter to the Editor, Iowa City Press Citizen, April 7, 2021, (“Gambling, once illegal in Iowa, is now online. TV commercials encourage record-breaking sports betting. As a former sports law professor, gambling’s impact on the integrity of collegiate and professional sports concerns me. More concerning, Tom Coates (Des Moines Consumer Credit) believes the odds are good that Iowa will see more bankruptcies, suicides, divorces and other fallout due to the spike in sports wagering.”)

“Statistics,” Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers, (“Approximately 2 million Americans are addicted to gambling with another 6-8 million Americans experiencing life problems directly related to their gambling.”)

Marsha Mercer, “As Sports Betting Grows, States Tackle Teenage Problem Gambling,” PEW, July 12, 2022, (“We believe that the risks for gambling addiction overall have grown 30% from 2018 to 2021, with the risk concentrated among young males 18 to 24 who are sports bettors,’ said Keith Whyte, the council’s executive director, in an interview. … The percentage of high school students with a gambling problem is double that of adults, research has found. About 5% of all young people between 11 and 17 meet at least one of the criteria for a gambling problem….”)

Gambling and college athletics.

Tom Witosky, “U of I to review sports-gambling links; Car-giveaway ad spotlights whether schools should promote state lottery, take casino sponsorship dollars,” Des Moines Register, Feb. 8, 2007,

Deep Throat.

“All the President’s Men,” 1976,

# # #

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


U.S. House Needs More Bipartisanship
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, Nov. 22, 2022, p. A6

Even dreams that never come true sometimes lead to proposals that do. So may it be with my dream for selecting speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mike Huckabee said when he inspected planes before flying: “I'm not just interested in the left wing or the right wing, I'd kind of like for both of them to be there.”

Well, so would I. And after the last election, an increasing number of Republicans and Democrats think so as well. By definition, a successful democracy requires more than one ruling political party. It requires bipartisanship, time and effort at legislating, with compatibility, mutual respect, and willingness to compromise.

Unfortunately, it is the U.S. House of Representatives’ traditions and norms that have created the battlefield. The Constitution imposes no such constraints. Article I, Section 2, merely states, “The House … shall choose their Speaker ….”

The Speaker need not be a majority party member – nor even a member of the House (though no outsiders have been elected, some received votes).

Republicans need to rebuild their party. Democrats want Republicans they can work with. Voters are disgusted, asking both parties to start helping working people, not just major donors.

The opportunity before the House is the selection of their next Speaker. [Photo credit/source: U.S. House of Representatives.]

Yes, I know the House Republicans have pre-selected Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But he may not have the support of a House majority when the vote is taken Jan. 3.

Rather than leave McCarthy with the need to yield power to his no-compromises, election-denying, party-without-a-platform, MAGA, extremist, insurrectionist House members, how about the ultimate bipartisanship?

Each party can have its leadership. And tradition would dictate a Speaker from the House majority party. But shouldn’t the Speaker be the choice of both major parties?

There is precedent. In 1910, dissatisfied Republicans joined Democrats in stripping Speaker Joseph Cannon of some powers. In 1997, Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich feared dissenting Republicans would vote with Democrats, making Democrat Dick Gephardt Speaker. In Nancy Pelosi’s 2021 election as Speaker, two votes went to neither her nor McCarthy, and three members voted “present.”

On a more positive note, since 2017 the House “Problem Solvers Caucus,” with 58 members (29 from each party), has been successfully seeking to foster bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues.

Wouldn’t it be worth a similar try to build a majority from both parties that could agree on a Republican Speaker who would serve all House Members? A Speaker indebted only to them, with no need for concessions to those Members more interested in winning a war with the “enemy” party than legislating for the American people.

Like Huckabee’s airplane, the House needs wise adults on left and right. With or without a bipartisan speaker, hopefully this dream of one may inspire other proposals for converting the current mudball fight into a legislative body of problem solvers worthy of the name — and the U.S. House.

Nicholas Johnson is the author of “Columns of Democracy.”


Picking presidents. “It’s Huckabee; My Republican Pick: Governor Mike Huckabee,” July 24, 2007,

Speaker of the House:

Constitution. “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 2,

“Speaker of the United States House of Representatives,”, (“The most recent election for House speaker took place January 3, 2021, on the opening day of the 117th United States Congress, two months after the 2020 House elections in which the Democrats won a majority of the seats. Incumbent speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, secured a narrow majority of the 427 votes cast and was elected to a fourth (second consecutive) term. She received 216 votes to Republican Kevin McCarthy's 209 votes, with two votes going to other persons; also, three representatives answered present when their names were called.[34]” …”In 1997, several Republican congressional leaders tried to force Speaker Newt Gingrich to resign. However, Gingrich refused since that would have required a new election for speaker, which could have led to Democrats along with dissenting Republicans voting for Democrat Dick Gephardt (then minority leader) as speaker.” … “non-members have received a few votes in various speaker elections over the past several years.[8] Every person elected speaker, however, has been a member.[7] … As the Constitution does not state the duties of the speaker, the speaker's role has largely been shaped by traditions and customs that evolved over time.” ,,, “In 1910, however, Democrats and several dissatisfied Republicans joined together to strip Cannon of many of his powers, including the ability to name committee members and his chairmanship of the Rules Committee.[18]” … “John Boehner was elected speaker when the 112th Congress convened on January 5, 2011, and was subsequently re-elected twice, at the start of the 113th and 114th Congresses. On both of those occasions his remaining in office was threatened by the defection of several members from his own party who chose not to vote for him.[23][24]”)

Capitalization. “'Speaker' an exception,” Chicago Manual of Style,

House leadership. McCarthy. John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro, “Republicans engage in full-scale brawl after disappointing midterm elections,” The Washington Post, Nov. 15, 2022,

Marianna Sotomayor, “As Pelosi backs away, a new generation of Democrats steps forward; Democratic lawmakers both seasoned and new embraced the prospect of a fresh start, while recognizing the massive impact Pelosi has had,” Washington Post, Nov. 18, 2022, (“Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine M. Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) have emerged as the expected leaders …. Jeffries, 52, would break barriers as the first Black person to lead any party in either chamber of Congress. Clark, 58, could become the second woman to serve as minority whip, and Aguilar, 43, would be the second Hispanic lawmaker to chair the caucus if elected this month.” “… Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who earned the GOP conference’s nomination to be speaker next term ….” “Republicans begin to acknowledge that they will have to rely on Democrats to approve must-pass legislation to overcome their razor-thin majority.”

Problem solvers. “Problem Solvers Caucus,”

“Problem Solvers Caucus,” (“The Problem Solvers Caucus is a bipartisan group in the United States House of Representatives that includes members equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, who seek to foster bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues. The group was created in January 2017 as an outgrowth of meetings held by political organization No Labels starting in 2014.[5].” … “Today, the Problem Solvers Caucus is co-chaired by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and counts 58 members evenly divided between the parties, who are working to forge bipartisan solutions to America's toughest challenges.[6]”)

# # #

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Bill Maher's "Democracy's Deathbed"

I've been saying this ever since publishing the book "Columns of Democracy" years ago. But Bill Maher has a way of putting it across -- while even weaving in some humor about our demise -- that deserves distribution this election day, November 8, 2022.

Note: I'm operating on the assumtion that since this is posted on YouTube, with instructions on how to post it elsewhere, that there will be no opposition to my posting it here. If I'm wrong about that just email me at and I will take it down. -- NJ

# # #

Money and Politics

Money in Politics Buys Influence
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, November 8, 2022, p. A8

California’s 1960”s Assembly Speaker, Jesse Unruh, was the first to observe, “money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

EMILY’s List, dedicated to supporting women candidates, named itself with an acronym for “Early Money is Like Yeast” – adding, “it makes the dough rise.”

And rise it has. The total for the 2018 congressional midterms was $5.7 billion. This year? Open Secrets reports over $9.3 billion.

And what percent of the 18-and-above U.S. population of 255 million personally donated a total of $200 or more to that $9 billion? For men, 0.58 percent; women, 0.35 percent. Total for the top five donors? $365 million.
[Photo: wikimedia; attribution:]

What’s wrong with this picture? To borrow from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways.”

Influence. It’s not clear that America ever had what Abraham Lincoln wished for at Gettysburg in 1863: a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Early Federalists were fond of the line, “Those who own the country ought to govern it.” We still have what those Federalists wanted: a “government of the people, by the wealthy, for the wealthy.”

Doubt it? Go back and re-read the numbers.

Everyone can cast one vote. Everyone does not have the same political influence. As Molly Ivins titled one of her books, “You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You.”

Investment. For some anonymous big donors their political contribution is an investment, not a gift. It can return more than buying stocks. I once calculated the return as 1000 or 2000 to one. Give a million dollars, get back a billion – in subsidies, contracts, tariffs, tax breaks, cut rates on drilling or grazing on public lands, or approved mergers.

Time. To put fundraising in perspective, a U.S. senator would have to raise $9343, every day, 365 days a year, for six years, to amass this year’s $25 million average campaign cost. For House members it’s $4528 a day for two years. That’s half, or more, of every day. No wonder they don’t have time to read, let alone write, legislation.

In addition to their own campaign, they’re expected to raise money for their party’s leadership and committee chairpersons – thereby further transferring political influence and power away from the individual Senate and House members.

So what can we do? There’s no shortage of suggestions. Here are examples – some used in other countries.
  • Public funding; from government, or via voters’ vouchers.
  • Term limits. When terms are expiring incumbents don’t need money.
  • Reject Citizens United. Corporations aren’t “persons;” dollars aren’t “speech.”
  • Outlaw dark money. If an organization’s money ultimately reaches candidates all its donors should be identified.
  • Limit weeks of campaigning.
And, because half of all campaign contributions pay for media and fundraising:
  • Require that TV stations, licensed to serve “the public interest,” provide free time to candidates.
  • Prohibit, or limit the number of, political TV commercials.
  • Require candidates using attack ads to pay for attached reply ads from the candidate attacked.
Anyone want “government for the people”? Let’s get to work.
Nicholas Johnson, a former FCC commissioner, has worked in political campaigns since 1952. Contact

Mother’s milk. Gary Hooser, “The Mother’s Milk of Politics,” The Garden Island (Hawaii), Aug. 7, 2019, (“Jesse Unruh . . . is credited with coining the phrase ….”)

Emily’s list. “Our History,” Emily’s List, (“Early money is like yeast, it makes the dough rise.”)

$9 billion. “See how campaign money is being spent ahead of midterms,” PBS, Oct 17, 2022, (“You go back to 2018, [total spending was] $5.7 billion. … this year? … OpenSecrets says more than $9.3 billion ….”)

Donors. “Donor Demographics” [donors as percentage of U.S. population], Open Secrets,

“Who Are the Biggest Donors? Open Secrets,

(Top Individual Contributors: All Federal Contributions, 2021-2022 (rounded; top five) George Soros $128 million (Democrats) Richard Uihlein $81 million (Republicans) Kenneth C. Griffin $69 million (Republicans) Jeffrey S. & Janine Yass $47 (Republicans) Timothy Mellon $40 million (Republicans) $10,000 (Democrats) Total $365 million

E. B. Browning. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How Do I Love Thee?” (Sonnet 43),, (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach …”)

Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19,1863, (“… we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”)

Those who own the country. Search Google Books with “Adams” AND “those who own the country” Numerous sources. Attributed to John Jay and Samuel Adams. Including, Gilbert John Clark, Life Sketches, Thoughts, Facts and Facetia/e of Eminent Lawyers (1895), vol. 1, p. 46, quoting from, John Adams Diary, 1774, p. 79, “’Those who own the country ought to govern it,’ was a favorite maxim with Mr. Jay.”

Molly Ivins. Molly Ivins, “You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You,” 1999,

Political “Investments.” Nicholas Johnson, “Campaigns: You Pay $4 or $4000,” Des Moines Register, July 21, 1996, p. 2C, (“Why would anyone contribute so much money? The answer first came to me during President Nixon's Administration. Milk producers wanted a higher support price. The Department of Agriculture could find no justification. The producers gave Nixon $200,000. Shortly thereafter we all started paying $400 million more for our milk. The math isn't too hard: $400 million divided by $200,000 means the milk producers got a 2000-to-one return on that campaign contribution. What a "return on investment"!”)

“Campaign finance in the United States,” Wikipedia, (“Campaign finance in the United States is the financing of electoral campaigns at the federal, state, and local levels. In 2020, nearly $14 billion was spent on federal election campaigns in the United States -- "making it the most expensive campaign in U.S. history",[1] "more than double" what was spent in the 2016 election.[2] Critics complain that following a number of Supreme Court decisions -- Citizens United v. FEC (2010) in particular -- the "very wealthy" are now allowed to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns (through "Super PACs"), and to prevent voters from knowing who’s trying to influence them (contributing "dark money" that masks their identity).[3] Consequently, as of at least 2022, critics (such as the Brennan Center for Justice) allege "big money dominates U.S. political campaigns to a degree not seen in decades" and is "drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans."[3]) (“More than one billion dollars of Dark money was donated in 2020.[50]”) (“No major party nominee turned down government funds for the general election from 1976, when the program was launched, until Barack Obama did so in 2008.[71] Obama again declined government funds for the 2012 campaign, as did Republican nominee Mitt Romney, setting up the first election since the program's launch in which neither major party nominee accepted federal funding.[72] Nor did either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton accept federal funding for the 2016 general election.[73]”) (“Impact of contributions A 2016 experimental study in the American Journal of Political Science found that politicians made themselves more available for meetings with individuals when they believed that the individuals had donated to their campaign.[85] A 2011 study found that "even after controlling for past contracts and other factors, companies that contributed more money to federal candidates subsequently received more contracts."[86] A 2016 study in the Journal of Politics found that industries overseen by committees decreased their contributions to congresspeople who recently departed from the committees and that they immediately increase their contributions to new members of the committees, which is "evidence that corporations and business PACs use donations to acquire immediate access and favor—suggesting they at least anticipate that the donations will influence policy."[87]) (“A 2012 study by Lynda Powell examined "subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which money buys influence" in state legislatures "from setting a party's agenda, to keeping bills off the floor, to adding earmarks and crafting key language in legislation", rather than the roll call to vote yes or no on particular legislation.[90] She found that political money "carries more weight" in states with "more highly compensated legislators, larger chambers, and more professionalized leadership structures", where the "majority party's advantage is tightly contested and whose legislators are more likely to hold hopes of running for higher office";[90] less weight where legislatures have term limits and voters are more highly educated.[90][91]”)

Expenditures. “Top Spending Candidate Committees 2022 Cycle,” Expenditures, Open Secrets, (Top five Senate committees (rounded): Warnock $76 million; Mark Kelly $73 million, Val Demings $68 million, Fetterman $52 million, and Tim Ryan $45 million; Total $314 million. 6 years = 2190 days. $76 million/2190 = $34,703

David Knowles, “U.S. Senate seat now costs $10.5 million to win, on average, while US House seat costs, $1.7 million, new analysis of FEC data shows,” New York Daily News, March 11, 2013,

Average cost. “Average Price of Victory,” Karl Evers-Hillstrom, “State of Money in Politics: The price of victory is steep,” Open Secrets, Feb. 19, 2019, (“[In 2018] Victorious Senate candidates spent an average of $15.7 million, while the average winning House candidate shelled out just over $2 million on average.” See third “Source” cite. Total costs this year ($9.3 billion), vs. costs in 2018 ($5.7 billion), is a 163% increase. 163% of $15.7 million is $25.6 million; 163% of $2 million is $3.26 million. Daily costs. 6 years=2740 days. 25.6 million/2740=$9,343 2 years=720 days. 3.26 million/720=$4528

What can we do?

The examples/selections of proposals are my own, from reading, conversations, and experience over the years. I make no claim to being the first to think of any of them (except perhaps the last). What follows are random selections of material touching on these ideas.


Electoral Reform, Wikipedia, (includes “4. Electoral reform by Country” for 17 countries)

Google search: “reforms to cut the high costs of American elections”

Column’s proposals.

Public funding: government or vouchers.

“Public financing of campaigns,” Campaign Finance in the United States,” Wikipedia, (“Massachusetts … taxpayers are allowed to contribute $1 to the statewide election fund by checking a box on their annual income taxes.” “Seattle voters approved the Democracy voucher program in 2015, which gives city residents four $25 vouchers to donate to participating candidates.[99] Vouchers have been proposed in other cities and states as a means to diversify the donor pool, help more candidates run for office, and boost political engagement.”)

Term limits. When their term is expiring incumbents don’t need money.

Dan Greenberg, “Term Limits: The Only Way to Clean Up Congress,” The Heritage Foundation, Aug. 10, 1994, (“[T]erm limits … are supported by large majorities of most American demographic groups; they are opposed primarily by incumbent politicians and the special interest groups which depend on them.”)

Reject Citizens United.

Corporations aren’t “persons;” dollars aren’t “speech.” “Campaign Finance Reform Amendment,” Wikipedia,

“We the People Amendment,” Campaign finance reform amendment, Wikipedia, (“Section 2. Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of that person’s money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.”)

Dark money.

“Dark money” exception,” “Campaign Finance in the United States,” Wikipedia,"Dark_money2_exception (“A major loophole to disclosure requirements is "dark money," so named because while the recipient knows the identity of those giving them money, the public knows neither the identity of the campaigns, candidates nor other entities receiving the money, nor the amounts raised and spent, as these are exempt from disclosure requirements.”)

Limit weeks of campaigning.

Danielle Kurtzleben, “Why Are U.S. Elections So Much Longer Than Other Countries'?” National Public Radio, Oct. 21, 2015, (Japan 12 days; France 2 weeks; Canada 78 days; Argentina 60 days; U.K. 139 days; Mexico 147 days;

Require that TV stations, licensed to serve “the public interest,” provide candidates free time.

Danielle Kurtzleben, ibid, “Big Money in Politics,” (“ … in some countries, like Japan, candidates each get equal, free, ad space”).

Prohibit, or limit the number of, political TV commercials.

Danielle Kurtzleben, ibid, “Big Money in Politics,” (“A candidate can't keep advertising for a year and a half, for example, without millions of dollars at his or her disposal. The U.S. system essentially requires candidates to raise millions of dollars to even mount a serious run.” “Brazil, the U.K. and Japan, among many others, simply don't allow candidates to purchase TV ads (but that doesn't mean zero ads — in some countries, like Japan, candidates each get equal, free, ad space).”)

Require political attack ads to pay for an attached reply ad from the candidate attacked.

By “attached ad” is meant that a reply to the attack would immediately follow the attack. Many variables are possible. The station (or social media source) could provide that the station would provide the time to the person attacked without charge (as the FCC required with its “personal attack” rule). It would be an equal opportunity to immediately reach the audience exposed to the attack (a variance on the “equal opportunity” rule). And it would provide a different view on a “controversial issue of public importance” (as required by the “fairness doctrine”).

So while this idea has no specific antecedent its underlying concept was the basis for analogous FCC rules (dates indicating when they were abolished): the “equal opportunity,” “fairness doctrine” (1987) and “personal attack” (2000) rules. (For the “equal opportunity” rule, see “Equal-Time Rule,” Wikipedia, .)

Overly simplified but adequate for our purposes, they all recognized the power of mass media, and the “public interest” requirement in stations’ licenses. “Equal opportunity” provided that if a station gave free time to one candidate, they were obliged to provide an “equal opportunity” to reach its audience to all other candidates for that office.

The “fairness doctrine” required two things: stations must provide some programming dealing with “controversial issues of public importance,” and, in doing so, provide a representation of the range of viewpoints on that issue.

The “Personal Attack Rule, “The personal attack rule was invoked whenever ‘an attack is made upon the honesty, character, integrity, or like personal qualities of an identified person or group’ during broadcast or original cable TV programming while discussing ‘controversial issues of public importance.’[1] After such an attack, within a week the broadcast station or cable provider responsible for the programming was required to give the person or group attacked the following: notification and identification of the cablecast; a script, tape or accurate summary of the attack; and an offer of a reasonable opportunity to respond over the cable facilities.[1]”

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Human Race

Reflections on Being Human
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, October 26, 2022, p. 6A

Homo sapiens are the only animal species able to talk themselves into difficulties that would not otherwise exist, from divorce to war.

“Is” enables the generalizations of prejudice: “she ‘is’ Black,” “he ‘is’ a Jew” – when they are both so much more.

Although some list three to nine human groupings, there is only one race. The human race. One species. Homo sapiens. Individuals whose DNA is 99.9 percent identical.

“Race,” or species, relations would be how we get along with cats and dogs, wildcats and bears.

An American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut come from different cultures and speak different languages. But they have more in common with each other than either does with their countries’ farmers, or brain surgeons. The same can be said of different countries’ trades workers, hobbyists and athletes.

Like other species, humans vary in height, weight, bone density, eye and skin color -- including comparing “whites” who spend the summer building the perfect tan and those who stay indoors.

But the significant differences between us are matters of culture: customs and norms, language and arts, religion and celebrations, history and mythology.

We trivialize the cognitive ability of plants and other animal species because we believe ourselves to be so much smarter. But the only two cognitive abilities any species requires are survivability and reproduction.

Molly Ivins once said of a Texas legislator, “If his IQ slips any lower we'll have to water him twice a day.” Given what Homo sapiens have been up to recently there are plant species demonstrating more cognitive ability than we have.

There are many advantages of a liberal arts education, however obtained. It’s like going from black and white TV to color TV, or well-seasoned rather than bland stew. Everything you see, hear, read about or do explodes with multifaceted meaning.

Even if one’s goal is great wealth from business, take note: Over one third of Fortune 500 corporate CEOs have liberal arts degrees.

Similarly, the more one values and knows of others’ cultures the more one can borrow and use in their own. Why are Denmark’s citizens so happy? How do matriarchal societies work? Cultural anthropology should be a required course.

When walking my Fitbit steps I greet those I meet. I’ve followed up with some I’ve talked to from India, Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Vietnam in a neighborhood park. For example, our Turkish friend attended our family gatherings. He informed us about, among other things in Turkey, family relationships, history, politics, his military experiences – and the game of reading fortunes from Turkish coffee grounds.

In fact, throughout my life I’ve found everyone I’ve met and talked with, no matter where they’re from or what they do, has had something to tell me I didn’t know. From millionaires to the homeless, they all have their story.

But that can only happen when I see an individual rather than a member of a group; when I approach the conversation with questions rather than assumptions and labels.

Nicholas Johnson is the author of "Test Pattern for Living." Contact


The “is” of identity. See generally, S.I. Hayakawa, ed., Language Meaning and Maturity,” p. 29 (1954) (“4. The ‘is’ of identity. … To be wary of the ‘is’ of identity is to guard against confusing words and things ….”), and Wendell Johnson, People in Quandaries (1946), (“Unconscious projection shows itself rather conspicuously in our use of the verb to be in its various forms is, are, am, etc.”)

Human groupings. Paul Rincon, “Three human-like species lived side-by-side in ancient Africa,” News, BBC, April 2, 2020, (“Two million years ago, three different human-like species were living side-by-side in South Africa, a study shows. The findings underline a growing understanding that the present-day situation, where one human species dominates the globe, may be unusual compared with the evolutionary past.”)

Jasna Hodzic, “Homo sapiens is #9. Who were the eight other human species?” Big Think, April 12, 2022, (“Have you ever wondered why there is not another species like us? One line of reasoning suggests that we would not be so unique had we not killed off some of our relatives.”)

One race. “Ruth Benedict,” Heroes for a Better World, (“The peoples of the earth are one family.” “Culture is not a biologically transmitted complex.”)

DNA 99.9%. “Genetics vs. Genomics Fact Sheet,” National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, undated, (“All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup. Differences in the remaining 0.1 percent hold important clues about the causes of diseases.”)

Culture. “Ruth Benedict,” Heroes for a Better World, (“The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community.” “No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking.” “We do not see the lens through which we look.”)

Molly Ivins. “Quotations,” Molly Ivins, Wikipedia, (“On James M. Collins, U.S. Representative, R-Dallas: "If his IQ slips any lower we'll have to water him twice a day.")

Cognitive ability. Paco Calvo, et al, “Plants are Intelligent, Here’s How,” National Library of Medicine, Oct. 20, 2019, (“Intelligent behaviour is usually recognized when individual organisms including plants … change their behaviour to improve their probability of survival. … Intelligent behaviour in single cells and microbes is frequently reported. … There is real biological benefit to regarding plants as intelligent …. The inbuilt driving forces of individual survival and thence to reproduction are fundamental to life of all kinds. In these unpredictable and varying circumstances the aim of intelligence in all individuals is to modify behaviour to improve the probability of survival.”)

Alison N. P. Stevens, et al, “Animal Cognition,” the nature education Knowledge Project, 2021, (“The physical world poses a number of problems for animals to solve. On a daily basis, animals must find food, avoid predators, and seek shelter. Solving these problems requires cognitive capacities. Cognition involves processing information, from sensing the environment to making decisions based on available information. Such cognitive capacities include, among others, the ability to navigate through space, account for the passage of time, determine quantity, and remember events and locations.”)

Homo sapiens have been around for about 300,000 years. “What does it mean to be human? Homo sapiens,” National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, But ferns have been around for 300 million years! Will we be? I doubt it. Jerald Pinson, “About Ferns,” Resources, American Fern Society,

Liberal arts. “Ruth Benedict,” Heroes for a Better World, (“The adequate study of culture, our own and those on the opposite side of the globe, can press on to fulfillment only as we learn today from the humanities as well as from the scientists.”)

“Liberal Arts Education,” Wikipedia, (“Liberal arts education can refer to studies in a liberal arts degree course or to a university education more generally. Such a course of study contrasts with those that are principally vocational, professional, or technical.”)

CEOs. Tim Askew, “Why The Liberal Arts are Necessary for Long-Term Success; The Short-Sightedness of STEM,” Inc., (“In fact, over a third of Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees.”)

Elizabeth Segran, “Why Top Tech CEOs Want Employees With Liberal Arts Degrees,” Fast Company, Aug. 28, 2014, (“Other tech CEOs across the country agree that liberal arts training–with its emphasis on creativity and critical thinking–is vital to the success of their business.”)

Happy Danes. “Why Finland And Denmark Are Happier Than The U.S.,” World Happiness Report,” Jan. 9, 2020, (“Finland and Denmark have consistently topped the World Happiness Report in all six areas of life satisfaction: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.”)

Matriarchal societies. Matriarchy, Wikipedia, (“Matriarchy is a social system in which women hold the primary power positions in roles of authority.”)

Anthropology. “Cultural anthropology,” Oxford Languages, (“the branch of anthropology concerned with the study of human societies and cultures and their development.”)

Note: Two books by Ruth Benedict had a very early impact on my thinking about cultural anthropology that continues in this column: The Races of Mankind (1943) and Patterns of Culture (1934).

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